Man, 57, charged after journalist confronted at anti-lockdown protest

16 June 2021, 08:10 | Updated: 16 June 2021, 08:55

A line of police at the anti-lockdown protest at Downing St on Monday
A line of police at the anti-lockdown protest at Downing St on Monday. Picture: PA
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A man has been charged after a journalist was confronted and chased by a group of anti-lockdown protesters in Whitehall.

Police said Martin Hockridge, 57, has been charged with a public order offence and will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, 29 June.

It comes after footage shared on social media showed Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt, who was wearing a BBC lanyard, being forced to run through a mob beyond a line of police officers as people shouted "Traitor" and other slurs at him near Downing Street on Monday.

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A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "A video that has been shared widely on social media shows a group of protestors pursuing the journalist first on Whitehall, then into Richmond Terrace, on the afternoon of Monday, 14 June.

"After reviewing the video footage, officers identified a number of possible offences and an investigation was launched. On Tuesday afternoon, Martin Hockridge, 57 (21.11.63) of Harpenden, was interviewed under caution at a Hertfordshire police station.

"Later the same evening, he was charged with an offence under Section 4A of the Public Order Act, namely using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour towards another person with the intention to cause them harassment, alarm or distress.

"Hockridge will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 29 June. Enquiries are ongoing to identify other people who were involved in the incident and detectives are appealing for the public’s help."

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: "Disgraceful to see the hounding of Nick Watt doing his job. The media must be able to report the facts without fear or favour - they are the lifeblood of our democracy."

Home Secretary Priti Patel Patel tweeted: "The video of @BBCNewsnight's Nick Watt being abused by a mob is appalling and distressing.

"This behaviour is never acceptable."

She added: "The safety of journalists is fundamental to our democracy."